[Photos: Holly Walker] click to expand
[Featured Photo: Matthew Tsang/Toronto Wolfpack]
Once again sport proves that dreams really can come true — and that you can in fact get up close and personal with wolves.
Most commonly known as Lamport Stadium, the sports venue in Liberty Village is more appropriately named “The Den” while being home to the Toronto Wolfpack from Spring to Fall. It is also where dreams are made — not only for the players who brought rugby to the forefront of Toronto sports but for the fans as well.
Maybe it’s the first time you slip your hand into a glove, hear the sound of the swish as a basketball falls effortlessly into a net, or smell the dew on fresh grass as your cleats sink in — in that moment something is born in all of us, a desire for greatness and the willingness to dream.
We spend countless hours playing, practicing, watching, cheering. Arguing over who is the best and why, wearing our favourite jerseys until the numbers become tattered and the letters fade and even then, wearing them all just the same as a point of pride; as proof that you’re not a bandwagoner. It’s a badge of honor symbolic of the years of dedication you’ve given your team.
As innocent kids we may dream of becoming one of the greats, with a lucky few attaining that praise. But for most of us, we simply dream of getting to meet our heroes and rub shoulders with them. That’s what the Toronto Wolfpack offers fans each and every game.
Any sports fan can attest to the desire to be up close with the players they love. A nostalgic call-back to childhood dreams of many, the Toronto Wolfpack’s Beer Garden at Lamport Stadium is an atmosphere built on the nitty gritty, grassroots spirit of sport.
[Photos above: Matthew Tsang/Toronto Wolfpack]
Loud enthusiastic cheering can be heard while strangers become friends in a sea of jerseys rich with hometown pride, all while blurring the lines between players and fans. The environment feels familiar, laidback, and inviting.
Created by Joe Santos, CEO of the Craft Guys — an agency that links craft breweries, ciders and spirits with events around the GTA — the beer garden is something that sets the Canadian team apart when it comes to fan engagement.
“I like to call it the best patio in the city,” — Santos.
Picture a miniature craft beer festival: food and beverage vendor tents line the north end of the field with the likes of Henderson, Lost Craft, Innis & Gunn, Common Good, Left Field, and Brickworks Cider to name a few. Specialty offerings range from Casamigos Tequila, Joiy sparkling wine, Georgian Bay and a premium spirits bar.
Let’s face it, attending a sports game in Toronto is often not cheap. Between skyrocket ticket prices, expensive merchandise and pricey vendors at the stadiums it’s an experience that is not accessible to all. While Lamport may be a no frills venue, the offerings aren’t lacking and still remain affordable for everyone.
“I’ve created this group of crafts where people can gain recognition, make some money and hopefully have a great time,” explains Santos.
Open for service 90 minutes before kickoff, visitors can have a pre-game drink or snack. The garden remains open throughout the game and for two hours following each game with live music.
[Photo: Holly Walker/Glory]
With an undefeated season at Lamport Stadium so far, a Wolfpack game doesn’t disappoint. The exuberant adrenaline coupled with the sheer toughness of the sport keeps fans on their toes. But it’s the after party that brings it home.
Post-game visitors have the ultimate game day experience as they go beyond the sidelines to mix and mingle with both the Wolfpack and often the visiting teams as well for an experience unlike any other. Players trickle out of the changing room, grab a drink and exchange toasts and laughs with their families and fans who were cheering them on moments before.
"It’s an experience you can’t get at other sporting events.”
“Even the opposing teams seem to enjoy coming here. Even though they probably got walloped in the game by our guys everyone here, the fans, are all so friendly and so open with them,” said Santos.
Whether it’s players like Australian-born Ashton Simms having the chance to play rugby around the world, wide-eyed kids in the stands swapping high fives and autographs with their heros, or fans looking to congratulate their champions in an easy-going intimate setting, dreams are coming true.
The Den and it’s garden are reminiscent of why we all fall in love with sports in the first place. Not for the fame, not for the glamour — but for the grit, for the community and for the dreamers.
The Toronto Wolfpack will await results to see who they will play at Lamport Stadium on September 22 at 1.30pm ET, a game where a win will see them straight through to an all-or-nothing Grand Final on October 5 as as they prepare to fight for promotion to the Super League.